Chickenpox is a viral infection, much feared for being contagious. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is known to affect mostly kids, but adults are not spared either! Telltale signs of chickenpox are the occurrence of super-itchy, fluid-filled, red blisters all over the body. Fever in the range of 101-102 F (38.3-38.8OC) accompanied by a bad headache, sore throat, and stomach ache are usual chickenpox symptoms. The temperature may last for a few days, and over time the blisters pop and start to leak. These blisters take a few more days to crust and scab over. Even after complete healing, the scars often remain all over the body for a long time.
Are you wondering about the causes of chickenpox? If you have been in contact with someone who has chickenpox, you are at high risk. Typical chickenpox symptoms will appear within a fortnight, or could even take approx. 21 days to show any sign of contamination. In severe cases, the blisters may spread inside the mouth, eyes, nose, and even genitals. Most people recover in about two weeks. In 90% of the cases, the varicella-zoster virus affects children below two years of age. However, in children, the chickenpox symptoms are generally mild. The good news is, once it heals, the person becomes immune to the virus. The varicella-zoster virus will stay in a non-reactive, dormant stage inside the person’s body, and the antibody prevents further infection. In the rarest of cases, the virus may re-emerge to cause an infection.
Causes of Chickenpox
Often, chickenpox is caused by direct contact with an infected person. It’s most common in children below 12 years of age. An adult living with children, having the infection could even get affected by the virus. People working in a school, educational institutions, and child care facilities are mostly affected by the varicella-zoster virus. If a person has a compromised immune system due to an illness or medications, then he/she could easily fall prey to the varicella-zoster virus.
Blisters appear as small red bumps that look like insect bites or pimples. Soon they develop into thin-walled, pus-filled blisters. As the blisters pop, these turn into open sores, which become brown scabs within a few days. It is important to note that all the three stages of chickenpox – red bumps, blisters, scabs could appear on the body of the infected person at the same time. In children or adults with a weak immune system or skin problems like eczema, the rashes are more severe and widespread.
There are a few non-rash symptoms of the disease as well, which include – fever, headache, and loss of appetite. However, within two days, the typical stages of chickenpox will begin to take its course.
In most of the cases, chickenpox treatment mainly includes medicines for managing the symptoms. The fever and the virus are allowed to run its course. Children are kept out of school or daycare to prevent contamination. Infected adults are also advised to stay at home until the blisters do not dry out.
Your doctor might prescribe medicines as per the symptoms. He/she may prescribe antihistamine and topical ointments to soothe itching of the scabs. You could also take specific measures to ease the itching – taking lukewarm baths, applying anti-itching lotions, wearing soft and lightweight clothing. If you are at risk of adverse effects by VZV, your physician might advise you to take anti-viral drugs. However, these drugs will not cure chickenpox but will slow down the viral activity and make symptoms less severe. Thus, the immune system of your body will help heal faster.
How to prevent Chickenpox?
- The best way to prevent an infection is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents, and adults are administered two doses of chickenpox vaccine. However, people who had chickenpox once develop natural resistance to the virus. If ever chickenpox appears in vaccinated person or infection occurs the second time, the symptoms are generally mild with few or no blisters.
- It is important to remember not to use an aspirin or an aspirin-containing medications for relieving fever due to varicella-zoster virus. It could lead to Reye’s syndrome that affects the liver and brain. Even using ibuprofen is not recommended as it has been considered life-threatening by the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, without checking “how to prevent chickenpox” over the Internet, you should immediately visit a doctor for proper treatment options.
A proper diet is a crucial part of treatment of VZV. A balanced diet could provide the much-needed nutritional support while weakening the impact of the virus in the body. Given below are some tips on chickenpox diet:
- Avoid salty food. You could have blisters inside the mouth, which would be irritated by salts in your food. So, do not take vegetable juices, chicken broth, and other food items with salt. It might worsen the dehydration of the body in such a situation.
- Eat a lot of fresh fruits. Fruits containing vitamin C are perfect for a patient with chickenpox. However, if there are blisters inside the mouth, avoid acidic fruits like lime and pineapples.
- It’s not the right time for fatty foods, which are high in saturated fats. It could slow down the healing process as a whole.
- Avoid spicy foods as it could lead to extreme burning sensations inside the mouth and cause discomfort. If you are feeling a loss of appetite, you could drink teas with herbs like chamomile and basil.
To prevent chickenpox, you should try to avoid the VZV by limiting contact with infected people. However, this could be difficult as chickenpox remains unidentified before blisters appear. And, till then it might have already spread to others around the patient. So, preparing well to face the VZV is probably the only way in hand. Stay alert!